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Demo Driver 8: Running With Rifles

Also like playing with your cheating bastard friends.

It’s basically like playing with your army men, except you only get one guy and no further control over things.

We are living in the year 2015 of the common era, and folks, I’m as ashamed to write this as you are to read this, but your demo should include a tutorial.  You should do the bare minimum necessary to ensure that when someone loads your game they are aware of what in the ever-loving hell they’re doing, because the alternative is both stupid and awful.  Precisely one game has ever gotten away with throwing you in sans any tutorial, and that was Worms, which succeeded chiefly on the strength of making progress almost a secondary objective.

Yes, I could write entire articles about my love of Worms.  And in this case, the comparison is not entirely unwarranted, as Running With Rifles shares some traits with that venerable squad-based deathmatch.  Sadly, it lacks the wit and humor that define that franchise.  It also lacks a tutorial, hence my irritation.  There’s a lot of stuff going on in Running With Rifles that isn’t really explained, which pushes some of the game’s central conceits out of focus and make it seem less fun than it might be.

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Demo Driver 8: Gas Guzzlers Extreme

Although I think the name was more about the let-it-all-hang-out sort of attitude, which at least in the demo isn't unpleasant.

This game really has nothing to do with gas or cars that guzzle it, despite the title.

The last time I talked about racing games, I made it very clear that there’s a specific sort of racing game that I enjoy.  While nothing has ever come close to matching the sheer brilliance of Split/Second and likely never will, I think that’s a better point to aim for than a game than strict simulation.  Reality already exists, but in a game you can actually have a race in which cars shoot one another and explode with a meaty feel and never worry about the real consequences something like that would entail.

Gas Guzzlers Extreme seems to agree with me.  It is definitely into the camp of unreal racing, with cars happily mounting weapons as they drive around and open fire at one another.  And it does that pretty well.  But I find myself playing it and feeling as if perhaps it took that a bit too far, turning the game into less a matter of cars racing and shooting and more into a match of tanks without turrets.

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Demo Driver 8: Sacraboar

But so few things are to its credit.

Almost every single screenshot is made up chiefly of empty space. This is not an accident, nor is it to the game’s credit.

If you’ve read the stuff I write here for a while, you know I have a great deal of love for the ambitious game that tries for lofty goals and winds up falling short.  Sacraboar, however, is not such a game.

Oh, it wants to be.  It wants to be some sort of never-before-seen combination of gameplay styles, mixing capture-the-flag mechanics in with real-time strategy.  Never mind that there are probably two dozen mods doing exactly that right now for StarCraft II, this game was built from the bottom up to facilitate that goal!  And it turns out that the goal just isn’t all that fun.

I’m not sure whether the weak skeleton of an RTS or a poor implementation of capture-the-flag gameplay came first, but what you wind up with is a game that’s just plain not fun to play.  It manages to combine the worst parts of both inspirations, and the net effect is a game which is most entertaining for the squealing noise heard when you capture the eponymous pig.

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Demo Driver 8: Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2013

Take a wild guess, though.

Will this be a game of stalking the stalkers, hunting the hunters, being at once the victim and the predator?

I generally like animals more than people, because even the most unpleasant animals I’ve known have never been pointlessly insulting or cruel.  Thus, I’ve always held on to a great deal of disdain for this particular game franchise – the idea that you would have a game solely devoted to killing animals in a hunting-but-not-really environment just seemed like behavior not worth encouraging.  If there was a game franchise devoted to injecting yourself with a whole lot of heroin, I wouldn’t exactly be on board with that, either.

But when I rolled this one up, I decided to keep an open mind.  I kill lots of animals in video games, after all, and maybe – just maybe – these games are actually awesome.  Maybe they manage to have a complex and realistic simulation of hunting without ever killing an actual animal.  Perhaps these are games for people who love the thrill of the hunt but would never want to harm a living creature.  It’s a long shot, sure, but it is possible that I would start playing and realize this franchise was better than I had given it credit for all along, with complex simulations of bullet physics and the effects you could have on your prey.

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Demo Driver 8: Pid

Everyone has their own tolerances for these things.

Pleasant enough, but is that enough?

If you’re using the word retro to describe your platforming game just because it’s a platformer, that throws up some red flags.

Yes, I totally appreciate the distinction.  Platforming as a genre is not nearly as common as it used to be.  But just the idea of jumping from platform is not retro in any way, shape, or form.  It’s just a mechanic of playing a game.  It’s no more retro than first-person shooters or RPGs or anything else.  About the only way you can call platforming itself retro is stepping back into the structural portion of platforming, moving away from tricks like seamless levels and narratives and just focusing on precision jumps mixed with power-ups.

Pid is not that game, so the few places where it calls itself “retro” raise my hackles.  The fact is that it’s not retro in the least; it would be more accurate to call it an attempt at putting modern design sensibilities into a platforming framework with mild puzzle elements.  How well it actually performs this task is another matter, but I give points for the attempt at all.

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